Wednesday, 30 October 2019

A Small, Encouraging Thing

The Little Auk Quest continued this morning. Day 2. Assessing conditions at Burton Bradstock beach first thing, I wasn't too discouraged. Not as cold, and though the wind was lighter it was still basically from the east. I'm usually a glass-half-full kind of bloke, so I expect you can picture me settling onto my special Questing Rock in a cheery kind of way, and adjusting my tripod to perfection with its little spirit level thing. I was ready...

Birds came, but none of them was a Little Auk. Nevertheless, one thing I love about late autumn seawatching here is its capacity to surprise. For example, I wasn't expecting a flock of 4 Goosanders to fly past (plus a single later) because they are seawatch gold. Wrestling with the old Goosanders??Mergs?? chestnut that early in the morning was an unanticipated joy. They're never drakes are they?! And a Sandwich Tern came by also. It feels like a lifetime since I last saw one of them. Other entertainment was provided by 3 Brents, 7 Teal, 18 Common Scoter, 18 Wigeon, a Great Crested Grebe and 27 Dunlin, plus another 3 unidentified waders which were probably Dunlin too. A grey seal went through E. Slowly. And I was jammily looking at exactly the right spot to see 2 harbour porpoises roll together, a new cetacean for me locally.

It wasn't fast and furious, but variety was there, and a gentle flow of action. What more do you need?

I'm nursing a cold right now, so rather than tempt fate by going to work and getting all strenuous, I persuaded Mrs NQS that we should drive to the Abbotsbury beach car park and walk very sedately along the Burton Road a bit. I recently learned that this stretch of coast is very underwatched, and investigating it has been a lot of fun. I've discovered, for example, that 85% of the world's Med Gull population resides here. Even better, the location is home to a rather exciting tamarisk belt. As any birder who's been to Scilly knows, tamarisk is where Blackpoll Warblers live. And anything else that likes to skulk mercilessly. At East Bexington there is a great big windbreak of the stuff just behind the beach. It is alive with birds, but of course they are a nightmare to see. However, all is not hopeless. Bordered by a 4-pixel-wide yellow ring is a sallow clump, and if you stand next to it you will notice skittery little birds flitting in and out of it from the tamarisk across the road. Here they spend a bit of time feeding, and are much easier to see. Until now, all I had managed were a few Chiffs and Goldcrests, but today we found a Firecrest! Yay! I love Firecrests and don't see them anything like often enough. In the absence of Little Auk, it became today's small, encouraging thing.

Shuffling back to the car, bunged up to the eyeballs with catarrh, head throbbing, nose like a tap, I was well chuffed.

The Sallow Clump of Delight


  1. Great stuff! Similarly, I'm full of cold at the moment too - but birding is not on the agenda anyway (as is the norm) due to work. Thoroughly enjoying your current run of posts!

    1. Thanks Neil, much appreciated. If there was a prize for most rapid comment to a new post, you just won it. Nine minutes. :-)